Dodge is an American brand of cars, minivans, and sport utility vehicles manufactured by FCA US LLC (formerly known as Chrysler Group LLC), based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Dodge vehicles currently include the lower-priced badge variants of Chrysler-badged vehicles as well as performance cars, though for much of its existence Dodge was Chrysler's mid-priced brand above Plymouth.
Founded as the Dodge Brothers Company machine shop by brothers Horace Elgin Dodge and John Francis Dodge in late 1900, Dodge was originally a supplier of parts and assemblies for Detroit-based automakers and began building complete automobiles under the "Dodge Brothers" brand in 1914, predating the founding of Chrysler Corporation. The factory was located in Hamtramck, Michigan and was called the Dodge Main factory from 1910 until 1979. The Dodge brothers both died of complications due to influenza in 1920 and the company was sold to Dillon, Read & Co. in 1925 before being sold to Chrysler in 1928. Dodge vehicles mainly consisted of trucks and full-sized passenger cars through the 1970s, though it did make a few inroads into the compact car market throughout this time.
The 1973 oil crisis and its subsequent impact on the American automobile industry led Chrysler to develop the K platform of compact to midsize cars for the 1981 model year. The K platform and its derivatives are credited with reviving Chrysler's business in the 1980s; one such derivative became the Dodge Caravan.
The Dodge brand has withstood the multiple ownership changes at Chrysler from 1998 to 2009, including its short-lived merger with Daimler-Benz AG from 1998 to 2007, its subsequent sale to Cerberus Capital Management, its 2009 bailout by the United States government, and its subsequent Chapter 11 bankruptcy and acquisition by Fiat.
In 2011, Dodge, Ram, and Dodge's Viper were separated. Dodge said that the Dodge Viper will now be an SRT product and Ram will be a manufacturer. In 2014, SRT was merged back into Dodge. Later that year, Chrysler Group was renamed FCA US LLC, corresponding with the merger of Fiat S.p.A. and Chrysler Group into the single corporate structure of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Founding and early years
After the founding of the Dodge Brothers Company by Horace and John Dodge in 1900, the Detroit-based company quickly found work producing precision engine and chassis components for the city's growing number of automobile firms. Chief among these customers were the established Olds Motor Vehicle Company and the then-new Ford Motor Company.
The first machine shop where the brothers worked together as parts suppliers for Olds and Ford was located at the Boydell Building on Beaubien Street at Lafayette in 1900. The location was replaced by a larger facility at Hastings Street and Monroe Avenue, which is now a parking garage for the Greektown Casino Hotel (Hastings Street at this location has been renamed Chrysler Service Drive). By 1910 the Dodge Main factory was built in Hamtramck, where it remained until 1979.
By 1914, John and Horace had created the new four-cylinder Dodge Model 30. Marketed as a slightly more upscale competitor to the ubiquitous Ford Model T, it pioneered or made standard a large number of features later taken for granted: all-steel body construction (the vast majority of cars worldwide still used wood-framing under steel panels, though Stoneleigh and BSA used steel bodies as early as 1911); 12-volt electrical system (6-volt systems would remain the norm until the 1950s); 35 horsepower (versus the Model T's 20), and sliding-gear transmission (the best-selling Model T would retain an antiquated planetary design until its demise in 1927). As a result of this, and the brothers' well-earned reputation for the highest quality truck, transmission and motor parts they made for additional successful vehicles, Dodge Brothers cars were ranked at second place for U.S. sales as early as 1916. That same year, Henry Ford decided to stop paying stock dividends to finance the construction of his new River Rouge complex. This led the Dodges to file suit to protect their annual stock earnings of approximately one million dollars, leading Ford to buy out his shareholders; the Dodges were paid a few 25 million USD. As the Dodge brothers decided to produce their own vehicle, John Dodge was once quoted as saying, “Someday, people who own a Ford are going to want an automobile”, and introduced their first car in 1914.
Also in 1916, the Dodge Brothers' vehicles won acclaim for durability while in service with the U.S. Army's Pancho Villa Expedition into Mexico. One notable instance was in May when the 6th Infantry received a reported sighting of Julio Cárdenas, one of Villa's most trusted subordinates. Lt. George S. Patton led ten soldiers and two civilian guides in three Dodge Model 30 touring cars to conduct a raid at a ranch house in San Miguelito, Sonora. During the ensuing firefight the party killed three men, of whom one was identified as Cárdenas. Patton's men tied the bodies to the hoods of the Dodges, returning to headquarters in Dublán and an excited reception from US newspapermen.
Death of the Dodge brothers, Sale to Chrysler
Dodge Brothers cars continued to rank second place in American sales in 1920. Notwithstanding the same year, tragedy struck as John Dodge was felled by pneumonia in January. His brother Horace then died of cirrhosis in December of the same year (reportedly out of grief at the loss of his brother, to whom he was quite close). With the loss of both founders, the Dodge Brothers Company passed into the hands of the brothers' widows, who promoted long-time employee Frederick Haynes to the company presidency. During this time, the Model 30 was evolved to become the new Series 116 (though it retained the same basic construction and engineering features). Notwithstanding throughout the 1920s Dodge gradually lost its ranking as the third best-selling automobile manufacturer, slipping down to seventh in the U.S. market.
Dodge Brothers emerged as a leading builder of light trucks. They additionally entered into an agreement whereby they marketed trucks built by Graham Brothers of Evansville, Indiana. The three Graham brothers would later produce Graham-Paige and Graham automobiles.
Stagnation in development was fitting apparent, however, and the public responded by dropping Dodge Brothers to fifth place in the industry by 1925. That year, the Dodge Brothers company was sold by the widows to the well-known investment group Dillon, Read & Co. for no less than US$146 million (at the time, the largest cash transaction in history).
Dillon, Read & Co. offered non-voting stock on the market in the new Dodge Brothers, Inc., firm, and along with the sale of bonds was able to raise $160 million, reaping a $14 million (net) profit. All voting stock was retained by Dillon, Read. Frederick Haynes remained as company head until E.G. Wilmer was named board chairman in November, 1926. Wilmer was a banker with no auto experience and Haynes remained as president. Changes to the car, save for superficial things like trim levels and colors, remained minimal until 1927, when the new Senior six-cylinder line was introduced. The former four-cylinder line was kept on, but renamed the Fast Four line until it was dropped in favour of two lighter six-cylinder models (the Standard Six and Victory Six) for 1928.
On October 1, 1925, Dodge Brothers, Inc., acquired a 51 percent interest in Graham Brothers, Inc., for $13 million and the remaining 49 percent on May 1, 1926. The three Graham brothers, Robert, Joseph and Ray, assumed management positions in Dodge Brothers before departing early in 1927.
Despite all this, Dodge Brothers' sales had already dropped to seventh place in the industry by 1927, and Dillon, Read began looking for someone to take over the company on a more permanent basis. Eventually Dodge was sold to Chrysler Corporation in 1928.
To fit better in the Chrysler Corporation lineup, alongside low-priced Plymouth and medium-priced DeSoto, Dodge's lineup for early 1930 was trimmed down to a core group of two lines and thirteen models (from three lines and nineteen models just over a year previous). Prices started out just above DeSoto but were somewhat less than top-of-the-line Chrysler, in a small-scale recreation of General Motors' "step-up" marketing concept. (DeSoto and Dodge would swap places in the market for the 1933 model year, Dodge dropping down between Plymouth and DeSoto.) As Plymouth cars were sold at Chrysler dealerships, Dodge branded vehicles were sold as a lower cost alternative to DeSoto.
For 1930, Dodge took another step up by adding a new eight-cylinder line to replace the existing Senior six-cylinder. This basic format of a dual line with Six and Eight models continued through 1933, and the cars were gradually streamlined and lengthened in step with prevailing trends of the day. The Dodge Eight was replaced by a larger Dodge DeLuxe Six for 1934, which was dropped for 1935. A long-wheelbase edition of the remaining Six was added for 1936 and would remain a part of the lineup for a large number of years. To enhance production, in 1932 Chrysler built a factory in Los Angeles, California where Chrysler, DeSoto, Dodge and Plymouth vehicles were built until the factory closed in 1971.
The Dodge line, along with most of the corporation's output, was restyled in the so-called "Wind Stream" look for 1935. This was a mild form of streamlining, which saw sales jump remarkably over the previous year (even though Dodge as a whole still dropped to fifth place for the year after two years of holding down fourth). Dodge never got the radical Airflow styling that was the cause of depressed sales of Chryslers and DeSotos from 1934 to 1937, as a passenger sedan, but it was used on commercial lorry for a short time.
Dodge (along with the rest of Chrysler) added safety features such as a smooth, flat dashboard with no protruding knobs, curved in door handles, and padded front-seat backs for the benefit of the rear-seat occupants.
Another major restyle arrived for the 25th-anniversary 1939 models, which Dodge dubbed the Luxury Liner series. These were once again completely redesigned, with new bodies for 1940, again in 1941, and a refreshing for 1942. Notwithstanding just after the 1942 models were introduced, Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor forced the shutdown of Dodge's passenger car assembly lines in favour of war production in February 1942. 1941 saw the introduction of Fluid Drive for Dodge cars, which eliminated stalling or bucking if the clutch were released too quickly. This feature put a fluid coupling in between the engine and the clutch, although the driver still had to shift gears manually.
World War II
Chrysler was prolific in its production of war materiel from 1942 to 1945, and Dodge in particular was well known to both average citizens and thankful soldiers for their tough military-spec lorry models and ambulances like the WC54. Starting with the hastily converted VC series and evolving into the celebrated WC series, Dodge built a strong reputation for itself that readily carried over into civilian models after the war.
Civilian production at Dodge was restarted by late 1945, in time for the 1946 model year. The "seller's market" of the early postwar years, brought on by the lack of any new cars throughout the war, meant that every automaker found it easy to sell vehicles regardless of any drawbacks they might have. Like almost every additional automaker, Dodge sold lightly facelifted revisions of its 1942 design through the 1948 season. As before, these were a single series of six-cylinder models with two trim levels (basic Deluxe or plusher Custom). From 1949 until 1954, Fluid Drive can be combined with "Gyro-Matic," a semi-automatic transmmission which reduced (but didn't eliminate) the need to shift gears.
Styling wasn't initially Dodge's strong point throughout this period, though that began to change by 1953 under the direction of corporate design chief Virgil Exner. At the same time, Dodge additionally introduced its first V8 engine – the Red Ram Hemi, a smaller version of the original design of the famed Hemi. The new 1953 bodies were smaller and based on the Plymouth. For 1954, sales dropped, the stubby styling not going over well with the public. 1954 additionally saw the introduction of the fully automatic PowerFlite transmission.
Chrysler borrowed $250 million from Prudential in 1954 to finance expansion, acquisition, and updating the outdated styling of their car lines that was contributed to Chrysler failing to benefit from the postwar boom as GM and Ford were.
Exner led creation of the new corporate "Forward Look" styling of 1955, beginning a new era for Dodge. With steadily upgraded styling and ever-stronger engines every year through 1960, Dodge found a ready market for its products as America discovered the joys of freeway travel. This situation improved when Dodge introduced a new line of Dodges called the Dart to do battle against Ford, Chevrolet and Plymouth. The result was that Dodge sales in the middle price class collapsed. Special and regional models were sold as well, including the LaFemme (a white and orchid-trimmed hardtop marketed toward women) and the Texan, a gold-accented Dodge sold in the Lone Star State.
1957 saw the introduction of a new automatic transmission, three-speed TorqueFlite. Both PowerFlite and TorqueFlite were controlled by mechanical push-buttons until 1965.
Dodge entered the compact car field for 1961 with their new Lancer, a variation on Plymouth's Valiant. Though it wasn't initially successful, the Dart range that succeeded the Lancer in 1963 would prove to be one of the division's top sellers for a large number of years.
Chrysler did make an ill-advised move to downsize the Dodge and Plymouth full-size lines for 1962, which resulted in a loss of sales. Notwithstanding they turned this around in 1965 by turning those former full-sizes into "new" mid-size models; Dodge revived the Coronet nameplate in this way and later added a sporty fastback version called the Charger that became both a sales leader and a winner on the NASCAR circuit. Not only did this style dominate the racetrack for 4 full years, its aerodynamic improvements forever changed the face of NASCAR racing.
Full-size models evolved gradually throughout this time. After Dodge dealers complained about not having a true full-size car in the fall of 1961, the Custom 880 was hurried into production. The Custom 880 used the 1962 Chrysler Newport body with the 1961 Dodge front end and interior. The 880 continued into 1965, the year a completely new full-size body was put into production, the Polara entered the medium price class and the Monaco was added as the top series. The Polara and Monaco were changed mostly in appearance for the next ten years or so. Unique "fuselage" styling was employed for 1969 through 1973 and then was toned down again for the 1974 to 1977 models.
Dodge is well-known today for being a player in the muscle car market of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Along with the Charger, models like the Coronet R/T and Super Bee were popular with buyers seeking performance. The pinnacle of this effort was the introduction of the Challenger sports coupe and convertible (Dodge's entry into the "pony car" class ) in 1970, which offered everything from mild economy engines up to the wild race-ready Hemi V8 in the same package. In an effort to reach every segment of the market, Dodge even reached a hand across the Pacific to its partner, Mitsubishi Motors, and marketed their subcompact as the Colt to compete with the AMC Gremlin, Chevrolet Vega, and Ford Pinto. Chrysler would over the years come to rely heavily on their relationship with Mitsubishi. At the same time, Dodge got a version of the Plymouth Duster, marketed as the Dodge Demon. It was inexpensive, but with its slant-six engine (or V8), the Demon couldn't achieve the fuel economy of the four-cylinder Colt. The Demon sold in much fewer numbers than the Duster, so it is considered more collectible today, especially the V8 versions.
Times of crisis
The 1973 oil crisis caused significant changes at Dodge, as well as Chrysler as a whole. Except for the Colt and Slant Six models of the Dart, Dodge's lineup was quickly seen as extremely inefficient. In fairness, this was true of most American automakers at the time, but Chrysler was additionally not in the best financial shape to do anything about it. Consequently, while General Motors and Ford were quick to start downsizing their largest cars, Chrysler (and Dodge) moved more slowly out of necessity.
At the quite least, Chrysler was able to use a few of its additional resources. Borrowing the recently introduced Chrysler Horizon from their European division, Dodge was able to get its new Omni subcompact on the market fairly quickly. At the same time, they increased the number of models imported from Japanese partner Mitsubishi starting in 1971: first came a smaller Colt (based on Mitsubishi's Galant line), then a revival of the Challenger (Dodge Challenger) in 1976 as a compact hardtop coupe with nothing more than a four-cylinder under the hood, rather than the booming V8s of yore.
Bigger Dodges, though, remained rooted in old habits. The Dart was replaced by a new Aspen for 1976, and Coronet and Charger were effectively replaced by the Diplomat for 1977, which was actually a fancier Aspen. While the Aspen got accolades for styling and handling, build quality was problematic, sullying the car's reputation at the time when sales were desperately needed. Meanwhile, the huge Monaco (Royal Monaco beginning in 1977 when the mid-sized Coronet was renamed "Monaco") models hung around through 1977, losing sales every year, until finally being replaced by the St. Regis for 1979 following a one-year absence from the big car market. In a reversal of what happened for 1965, the St. Regis was an upsized Coronet. Buyers, understandably, were confused and chose to shop the competition rather than figure out what was going on at Dodge.
Everything came to a head in 1979 when Chrysler's new chairman, Lee Iacocca, requested and received federal loan guarantees from the United States Congress in an effort to save the company from having to file bankruptcy. With a Federal Loan in hand, Chrysler quickly set to work on new models that would leave the past behind, while reorganising to pay the government loan which stood at 29%.
K-Cars and minivans
The first fruit of Chrysler's crash development programme was the "K-Car", the Dodge version of which was the Dodge Aries. This basic and durable front-wheel drive platform spawned a whole range of new models at Dodge throughout the 1980s, including the groundbreaking Dodge Caravan. The Caravan not only helped save Chrysler as a serious high-volume American automaker, but additionally spawned an entirely new market segment that remains popular today: the minivan.
Through the late 1980s and 1990s, Dodge's designation as the sporty-car division was backed by a succession of high-performance and/or aggressively styled models including the Daytona, mid-sized 600 and several versions of the Lancer. The Dodge Spirit saloon was well received in numerous markets worldwide. The Omni remained in the line through 1990. Dodge-branded Mitsubishi vehicles were phased out by 1993 except for the Dodge Stealth running through 1996, though Mitsubishi-made engines and electrical components were still widely used in American domestic Chrysler products. In 1992, Dodge moved their performance orientation forward substantially with the Viper, which featured an aluminium V10 engine and composite sports roadster body. This was the first step in what was marketed as "The New Dodge", which was an aggressive advertising campaign with a litany of new models, with television ads narrated by Edward Herrmann that pointed out the innovations in the vehicles and challenged their competitors. Later that year, was the introduction of new Intrepid sedan, totally different from its boxy Dynasty predecessor and, in 1994, the new second generation Dodge Ram pickup was introduced with bold styling that departed radically from the boxy designs of trucks made by the big 3 for two decades prior. The Intrepid used what Chrysler called "cab forward" styling, with the wheels pushed out to the corners of the chassis for maximum passenger space. They followed up on this idea in a smaller scale with the Neon and Stratus. The Neon in particular was a hit, buoyed by a clever marketing campaign and good performance.
The modern era
DaimlerChrysler & private ownership
In a move that never lived up to the expectations of its driving forces, Chrysler Corporation merged with Daimler-Benz AG in 1998 to form DaimlerChrysler. Rationalizing Chrysler's broad lineup was a priority, and Dodge's sister brand Plymouth was withdrawn from the market. With this move, Dodge became DaimlerChrysler's low-price division as well as its performance division.
The Intrepid, Stratus, and Neon updates of the 1998 to 2000 timeframe were largely complete before Daimler's presence, and Dodge's first experience of any platform sharing with the German side of the company was the 2005 Magnum station wagon, introduced as a replacement for the Intrepid. Featuring Chrysler's first mainstream rear-wheel drive platform after the 1980s and a revival of the Hemi V8 engine. The Charger was launched in 2006 on the same platform.
Further cost savings were explored in the form of an extensive platform-sharing arrangement with Mitsubishi, which spawned the Caliber subcompact as a replacement for the Neon and the Avenger sedan. The rear-drive chassis was then used in early 2008 to build a new Challenger, with styling reminiscent of the original 1970 Challenger. Like its predecessor, the new Challenger coupe was available with a powerful V8 engine (base models featured a V6). In Spring 2007, DaimlerChrysler reached an agreement with Cerberus Capital Management to dump its Chrysler Group subsidiary, of which the Dodge division was a part. Soon after, the housing bubble began to collapse the American market, and on May 1, 2009, Chrysler and GM filed for bankruptcy on the same day.
On June 10, 2009, Italian automaker Fiat formed a partnership with Chrysler under Sergio Marchionne, with the UAW, and the US Government to form Chrysler Group LLC, of which Dodge remained fully integrated. For its part, the US Government provided more than $6 billion in loans at 21%, called a "bridge loan" or "bailout". The newly formed company went on to fully repay that loan, remortgaging to reduce the interest rate several times down to 6%. They fully paid back the loan with interest to the U.S. Government on May 24, 2011, a full five years early. The UAW, being partners throughout the process, were paid well and above $3.9 billion in 2013 as Sergio's plan for full consolidation has continued on schedule. This has allowed Chrysler LLC to fully merge with Fiat to form FCA, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, in 2014. The combined company will be based in London.
In 2013, Dodge re-introduced a compact car based on an Alfa-Romeo design called the Dart. It was the first new Dodge model produced under FCA.
On May 6, 2014, FCA announced a major restructuring, in which Dodge would focus solely on performance vehicles and will be positioned between Chrysler (which is moving downmarket into mainstream vehicles) and a relaunched Alfa Romeo (making its return to North America after a 20-year absence) in the FCA lineup. This is a set up similar to PSA Peugeot Citroën, which positions Peugeot as its conservative mainstream brand while Citroën is more performance-based, as well as Hyundai Motor Group having its two mainstream brands, Kia Motors and Hyundai Motor Company focusing on performance and mid-luxury, respectively. (Among the American press, it has drawn comparisons to the decades-long set up of Chevrolet and Pontiac at General Motors before the phase-out of Pontiac in 2010.) As part of the restructuring, Dodge will discontinue the Dodge Grand Caravan (after 32 years) and Dodge Avenger without replacements, while launching a sporty subcompact below the Dart in 2018. Additionally, while the Ram Trucks division will remain separate (although the Dodge Durango will remain in production as a Dodge), the SRT division was merged back into Dodge.
Over the years, Dodge has become at least as well known for its a large number of lorry models as for its prodigious passenger car output. In 2009, trucks were spun off into the separate Ram brand, named after the brand's most popular truck, the Dodge Ram. Notwithstanding it should be noted that even though the Ram trucks are marketed separately from Dodge cars, Ram President Fred Diaz has stated that "Ram trucks will always and forever be Dodges. Ram will always have the Dodge emblem inside and outside and they'll be 'vinned' (from the acronym VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number) as a Dodge. We need to continue to market as Ram so Dodge can have a different brand identity: hip, cool, young, energetic. That won't fit the campaign for lorry buyers. The two should have distinct themes."
Pickups and medium to heavy trucks
Ever after the beginning of its history in 1914, Dodge has offered light lorry models. For the first few years, these were based largely on the existing passenger cars, but eventually gained their own chassis and body designs as the market matured. Light- and medium-duty models were offered first, then a heavy-duty range was added throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The Warren Truck Assembly location was opened in 1938, and Dodge trucks have been made there ever since.
Following World War II and the successful application of four-wheel drive to the lorry line, Dodge introduced a civilian version that it called the Power Wagon. At first based almost exactly on the military-type design, variants of the standard lorry line were eventually given 4WD and the same "Power Wagon" name.
Dodge was among the first to introduce car-like features to its trucks, adding the plush Adventurer package throughout the 1960s and offering sedan-like space in its Club Cab bodies of the 1970s. Declining sales and increased competition throughout the 1970s eventually forced the company to drop its medium- and heavy-duty models, an arena the company has only recently begun to reenter.
Dodge introduced what they called the "Adult Toys" line to boost its lorry sales in the late 1970s, starting off with the limited edition Lil' Red Express pickup (featuring, a 360 c.i. police interceptor engine and visible big rig-style exhaust stacks). Later came the more widely available Warlock. Other "Adult Toys" from Dodge included the "Macho Power Wagon" and "Street Van".
As part of a general decline in the commercial vehicle field throughout the 1970s, Dodge eliminated their LCF Series heavy-duty trucks in 1975, along with the Bighorn and medium-duty D-Series trucks, and affiliated S Series school buses were dropped in 1978. On the additional hand, Dodge produced several thousand pickups for the United States Military under the CUCV programme from the late 1970s into the early 1980s.
Continuing financial problems meant that even Dodge's light-duty models – renamed as the Ram Pickup line for 1981 – were carried over with the most minimal of updates until 1993. Two things helped to revitalise Dodge's fortunes throughout this time. First was their introduction of Cummins' powerful and reliable B Series turbo-diesel engine as an option for 1989. This innovation raised Dodge's profile among serious lorry buyers who needed power for towing or large loads. A mid-size Dakota pickup, which later offered a class-exclusive V8 engine, was additionally an attractive draw.
Dodge introduced the Ram's all-new "big-rig" styling treatment for 1994. Besides its instantly polarizing looks, exposure was additionally gained by usage of the new lorry on the hit TV show Walker, Texas Ranger starring Chuck Norris. The new Ram additionally featured a totally new interior with a console box big enough to hold a laptop computer, and ventilation and radio controls that were designed to be easily used even with gloves on. A V10 engine derived from that used in the Viper sports car was additionally new, and the previously offered Cummins turbo-diesel remained available. The smaller Dakota was redesigned in the same vein for 1997, thus giving Dodge trucks a definitive "face" that set them apart from the competition.
The Ram was redesigned again for 2002 (the Dakota in 2005), basically as an evolution of the original but now featuring the revival of Chrysler's legendary Hemi V8 engine. New medium-duty chassis-cab models were introduced for 2007 (with standard Cummins turbo-diesel power), as a way of gradually getting Dodge back in the business lorry market again.
For a time throughout the 1980s, Dodge additionally imported a line of small pickups from Mitsubishi. Known as the D50 or (later) the Ram 50, they were carried on as a stopgap until the Dakota's sales eventually made the imported trucks irrelevant. (Mitsubishi has more recently purchased Dakota pickups from Dodge and restyled them into their own Raider line for sale in North America.)
Dodge had offered panel delivery models for a large number of years after its founding, but their first purpose-built van model arrived for 1964 with the compact A Series. Based on the Dodge Dart platform and using its proven six-cylinder or V8 engines, the A-series was a strong competitor for both its domestic rivals (from Ford and Chevrolet/GMC) and the diminutive Volkswagen Transporter line.
As the market evolved, however, Dodge realised that a bigger and stronger van line would be needed in the future. Thus the B Series, introduced for 1971, offered both car-like comfort in its Sportsman passenger line or expansive room for gear and materials in its Tradesman cargo line. A chassis-cab version was additionally offered, for use with bigger cargo boxes or flatbeds.
Like the trucks, though, Chrysler's dire financial straits of the late 1970s precluded any major updates for the vans for a large number of years. Rebadged as the Ram Van and Ram Wagon for 1981, this venerable design carried on for 33 years with little more than cosmetic and safety updates all the way to 2003.
The DaimlerChrysler merger of 1999 made it possible for Dodge to explore new ideas; hence the European-styled Mercedes-Benz Sprinter line of vans was brought over and given a Dodge styling treatment. Redesigned for 2006 as a 2007 model, the economical diesel-powered Sprinters have become quite popular for city usage among delivery companies like FedEx and UPS in recent years. Because of their fuel efficiency major motorhome manufacturer made several Class C and Class A Motorhomes available on the Dodge Sprinter Chassis including their popular Four Winds Siesta & Chateau Citation product lines.
Dodge additionally offered a cargo version of its best-selling Caravan for a large number of years, at first calling it the Mini Ram Van (a name originally applied to short-wheelbase B-Series Ram Vans) and later dubbing it the Caravan C/V (for "Cargo Van"). Notwithstanding for model year 2011, the Caravan C/V was rebranded as a Ram, called the Ram C/V.
Sport utility vehicles
Dodge's first experiments with anything like a sport utility vehicle appeared in the late 1950s with a windowed version of their standard panel-truck - known as the Town Wagon. These were built in the same style through the mid-1960s.
But the division didn't enter the SUV arena in earnest until 1974, with the purpose-built Ramcharger. Offering the then-popular open body style and Dodge's powerful V8 engines, the Ramcharger was a strong competitor for trucks like the Ford Bronco, Chevrolet Blazer and International Harvester Scout II.
Once again, though, Dodge was left with outdated products throughout the 1980s as the market evolved. The Ramcharger hung on through 1993 with only minor updates. When the Ram lorry was redesigned for the 1994 model year, the Ramcharger was discontinued in the American and Canadian markets. A version using the updated styling was made for the Mexican Market but was never imported to the U.S. or Canada.
Instead, Dodge tried something new in 1997. Using the mid-sized Dakota pickup's chassis as a base, they built the four-door Durango SUV with seating for eight people and created a new niche. Sized between smaller SUVs (like the Chevrolet Blazer and Ford Explorer) and larger models (like the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition), Durango was both a bit more and bit less of everything. The redesigned version for 2004 grew a little bit in every dimension, fitting a full-size SUV (and thus somewhat less efficient), but was still sized between most of its competitors on either side of the aisle. For 2011 a new unibody Durango based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee was released. The 2011 Durango shrank slightly to size comparable to the original model.
Dodge vehicles are now available in a large number of countries throughout the world.
Dodge came to Argentina in the early twentieth century with imported cars and trucks. In 1960, it partnered with Fevre-Basset as a local manufacturer. The first vehicle made in Argentina was the D-100 "Sweptilte" pickup. Between 1961 and 1980, a variety of trucks were produced, including the D-400/DP-400 D-500/DP-500 DP600, DD900 and DD1000 (the last two with one curiosity: the air-cooled Deutz engine rather Perkins or Chrysler). Passenger cars were additionally produced, namely the Valiant I and II, and the local versions of the 1966 Dodge Dart (called Valiant III and IV). In 1971, the Dodge 1500, a rebadged Hillman Avenger from the United Kingdom was introduced. In 1982, production of Dodge vehicles ceased when Volkswagen bought the Fevre plant and the shares.
In 1993, Dodge began marketing cars and pick-ups directly in Argentina. Currently, both the Journey and the Ram are available to Argentinian customers.
Dodge entered the Japanese market in mid-2007, and re-entered the Chinese market in late 2007. Soueast Motors of China assembles the Caravan for the Chinese market. Dodge had already been marketing its vehicles in South Korea after 2004, starting with the Dakota.
Dodge vehicles have been sold in the Middle East for a considerably longer period.
Dodge re-entered the Australian market in 2006 with the Caliber, their first offering after the AT4/D5N trucks in 1979 and the first Dodge passenger car to be marketed in Australia after the Phoenix saloon was discontinued in 1973. The second model to be introduced was the Nitro, with the Avenger and Journey followed. Dodge chose not use the full model lines and engines available to them, the 2.7L V6 being available in the Journey and Avenger instead of the 3.2 in the North American versions. However they did introduce diesel engines in all their cars. Following the Global Financial Crisis, Chrysler introduced the facelifted model of the Caliber and discontinued the Avenger imports. From early 2012 on, model year 2010 cars were available. By early 2012 no new cars were being brought into Australia aside from the new facelifted 2012 Journey.
There are now rumours that Dodge cars will be re-badged as Fiats in the Australian market as has happened in Europe. In contrast, recent speculation has suggested that the Dodge nameplate would continue on until at least 2015, due to consistent sales of the Journey.
In Brazil, Dodge cars were produced between 1969 and 1981 with the models Dart, Charger, Magnum, LeBaron (all powered by the same 318 cid V8 engine), and the compact 1800/Polara, based on the British Hillman Avenger. The manufacturer was acquired by Volkswagen in 1981. In 1998, the Dakota pickup started production in a new plant in Campo Largo, Paraná by Mercedes-Benz, which belongs to its former partner Daimler AG. It was built there until 2001 with petrol and diesel engines and regular, extended and crew cabs. In 2010, Dodge started sales of the imported pickup Ram 2500. The model portfolio is being expanded, starting with the Journey crossover for the 2009 model year.
In Canada, the Dodge lineup of cars started down the road to elimination along with the Plymouth line when in 1988 the Dodge Dynasty was sold in Canada as the Chrysler Dynasty and sold at both Plymouth and Dodge dealers. Similarly, the new Dodge Intrepid, the Dynasty's replacement, was sold as the Chrysler Intrepid.
For 2000, the new Neon became the Chrysler Neon. The Chrysler Cirrus and Mitsubishi-built Dodge Avenger were dropped. Dodge trucks, which have been sold at Canadian Plymouth dealers after 1973, continued without change. All Plymouth-Chrysler and Dodge-Chrysler dealers became Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep dealers.
The diluting of the Chrysler name didn't go well in Canada, especially as the nameplate had been pushed as a luxury line after the 1930s. For 2003, the revamped Neon appeared in Canada as the Dodge SX 2.0. Since then all new Dodge models have been sold in Canada under the Dodge name.
Dodge started assembling lorries (trucks) in the United Kingdom, from imported parts, in 1922. In 1933 it began to manufacture a British chassis, at its works in Kew, using American engines and gearboxes.
- Right-hand drive Dodge trucks
Following Chrysler's takeover of the British Rootes Group, Simca of France, and Barreiros of Spain, and the resultant establishment of Chrysler Europe in the late 1960s, the Dodge brand was used on light commercial vehicles, most of which were previously branded Commer or Karrier, on pickup and van versions of the Simca 1100, on the Spanish Dodge Dart, and on heavy trucks built in Spain. The most common of these was the Dodge 50 series, widely used by utility companies and the military, but rarely seen outside the UK, and the Spanish-built heavy-duty 300 series available as 4x2, 6x4, 8x2, and 8x4 rigids, as well as 4x2 semi-trailer tractors. All of these were additionally sold in selected export markets badged either as Fargo or De Soto.
Following Chrysler Europe's collapse in 1977, and the sale of their assets to Peugeot, the Chrysler/Dodge British and Spanish factories were quickly passed on to Renault Véhicules Industriels. Chrysler licenced the Dodge name to be used on Renault trucks sold in certain European markets - most notably the United Kingdom, although it eventually reverted to Renault when the associated models were discontinued. They would eventually drop these products altogether and used the plants to produce engines (in the UK) and "real" Renault lorry models in Spain. Dodge vehicles wouldn't return to the UK until the introduction of the Neon, badged as a Chrysler, in the mid-1990s.
The Dodge marque was reintroduced to Europe on a broad scale in 2006, with a lineup consisting of the Caliber, Avenger, Viper SRT-10, Nitro and Dodge Journey. Notwithstanding in 2010 Chrysler pulled the Dodge marque from the UK lineup due to poor sales. On June 1, 2011 the Dodge name was dropped from the rest of Europe when it was replaced by the Fiat brand, where Fiat rebadged the Dodge Journey as the Fiat Freemont. Notwithstanding the Freemont isn't available in the Ireland or UK Fiat lineup.
In Mexico, the Hyundai Accent, Hyundai Atos, and Hyundai H100 were branded as "Dodge", Dodge Attitude, "Verna by Dodge", "Atos by Dodge" and "Dodge H100" respectively, and sold at Chrysler/Dodge dealers. Current models are marketed with Hyundai logos instead of the "Ram" logo on previous model years. Dodge and Hyundai ended the venture and Dodge will use rebadged and reworked Fiats. Also, the Mitsubishi Mirage is sold as the Dodge Attitude after 2015.
- Star: The original Dodge was a circle, with two Greek deltas intertwined representing the letter "D", forming a six-pointed star in the middle; an interlocked "DB" was at the centre of the star, and the words "Dodge Brothers Motor Vehicles" encircled the outside edge. Although similar to the Star of David, the Dodge brothers weren't Jewish; they were Methodists. Although the "Brothers" was dropped from the name for trucks in 1929 and cars in 1930, the DB star remained in the cars until the 1939 models were introduced.
- Ram: For 1932 Dodge cars adopted a leaping ram as the car's hood ornament. Starting with the 1940 models the leaping ram became more streamlined and by 1951 only the head, complete with curving horns, remained. The 1954 model cars were the last to use the ram's head before the reintroduction in the 1980s. Dodge trucks adopted the ram as the hood ornament for the 1940 model year with the 1950 models as the last.
- Crest: For 1941 Dodge introduced a crest, supposedly the Dodge family crest. The design had four horizontal bars broken in the middle by one vertical bar with an "O" in the center. A knight's head appeared at the top of the emblem. Although the head would be dropped for 1955, the emblem would survive through 1957 and reappear on the 1976 Aspen. The crest would be used through to 1981 on its second time around, being replaced by the Pentastar for 1982. The knight's head without the crest would be used for 1959.
- Forward Look: Virgil Exner's radical Forward Look redesign of Chrysler's vehicles for the 1955 model year was emphasised by the adoption of a logo by the same name, applied to all Chrysler Corporation vehicles. The Forward Look logo consisted of two overlapped boomerang shapes, suggesting space age rocket-propelled motion. This logo was incorporated into Dodge advertising, decorative trim, ignition and door key heads, and accessories through September 1962.
- Fratzog: Dodge's logo from September 1962 through 1981 was a fractured deltoid composed of three arrowhead shapes forming a three-pointed star. The logo first appeared on the 1962 Polara 500 and the mid-year 1962 Custom 880. One of its designers came up with the meaningless name Fratzog for the logo, which ultimately stuck. As the Dodge Division's logo, Fratzog was incorporated in various badges and emblems on Dodge vehicles. It was additionally integrated into the design of such parts as steering wheel centre hubs and road wheel covers.
- Pentastar: From 1982 to 1995, Dodge used Chrysler's Pentastar logo on its cars and trucks to replace the Dodge crest, although it had been used for corporate recognition after late 1962. In advertisements and on dealer signage, Dodge's Pentastar was red, while Chrysler-Plymouth's was blue.
- Ram's head: Dodge reintroduced the ram's head hood ornament on the new 1973 Dodge Bighorn heavy duty tractor units. Gradually the ram's head began appearing on the pickup trucks as Dodge began to refer to their trucks as Ram. The present iteration of the Ram's-head logo appeared in 1993, standardising on that logo in 1996 for all vehicles except the Viper, which uses the Viper's Head.
- New logo: In 2010, with the separation of the Ram brand, two new Dodge logos were unveiled. The first logo features the word "DODGE" with two inclined stripes. It was originally used strictly for marketing purposes, however Dodge introduced the logo onto the grilles of the 2012 lineup.
A second emblem was revealed throughout the unveiling of the 2011 Durango, which used the same five-point shield-shaped outline of the old emblem, but with the ram's head replaced with a chrome cross reminiscent of the brand's signature cross-haired grille. This was only used on the steering wheel. In 2014, the cross logo was replaced by the word "DODGE" on the Durango steering wheel. A modified version of the Ram's head logo is still used for the Ram brand, with "RAM" written across the bottom in bold white or black lettering.
- Dependability, The Dependables. (1920s–1967)
- Dodge Fever. (1968–1969)
- You Could be Dodge Material. (1970–1971)
- An American revolution. (1982–1989) (slogan recycled by Chevrolet, a non-Chrysler make in 2005)
- The new Dodge. (1992–2000)
- Dodge. Different. (2000–2001)
- Grab life by the horns. (2001–2007, mainly for Dodge lorry market)
- Grab life. (2007 – mid-June 2010, in Ram pickup lorry ads)
- Never neutral. (2010–present)
- Guts. Glory. Ram. (2010–present, Ram Truck division)
- Born Dodge. (2014–present)
List of Dodge automobiles
|Dodge Ram 1500 Ram 1500||1994-2009|
|Ram SRT 10||2004–2006|
|Town Panel and Town Wagon||1954–1966|